Old Ideas, New Words

Sometimes I am accused of re-iterating old ideas, and not adding much that’s new. They say my ideas are just old messages in new words.

That is mostly correct. But not quite.

I see no reason to come up with ideas that are totally new, when the old ideas are working fine, after I modified them with a little tweak to make them work better…

I changed the four leadership styles of situational leadership into the seven authority levels (by distinguishing consulting people versus informing them).

I changed the balanced scorecard into the metrics matrix (by considering system stakeholders instead of internal organization).

I changed S.M.A.R.T. goals into Agile goals (by allowing goal setting criteria that are all context-dependent).

I changed 360 degree feedback into 360 degree meetings (by discussing collaboration in an open and respectful environment).

And I have suggested to change value streams into value networks (by replacing customer value with stakeholder value).

In every case I did this because I believe the world is complex, not ordered. And organizations are living networked systems, not lifeless hierarchical machines.

Many of the great old ideas are defective when applied using the faulty machine metaphor. They only work well when we replace it with metaphors of living growing systems. That’s what I prefer to do.

And so yes, many of the ideas I present are old. But they are not merely old ideas in new words. They are old ideas used in a new paradigm of complexity thinking instead of machine thinking.

I call it Management 3.0. Others call it Management 2.0, or even Management 1.1. But does the name matter when we finally understand how to put those old ideas to good use? Should we throw useful management practices away only because some people have misapplied them in command-and-control hierarchies?

Why not brush the old ideas off and recycle them?

Now that's an old idea worth considering…

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